Housing Sulcatas Together?

nootnootbu

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I've found plentiful info about how antisocial Russians are, and how social red foots can be, but I haven't yet found much out about sulcatas and their social habits.
I've seen some videos from reptile keepers who seem to house multiple sulcatas together, but I don't know how common this is?
Do they tend to become aggressive with age?
Are males more aggressive than females?
Does every sulcata need to be housed all on its own?

I recently obtained, for free, 3 sulcatas who are, according to former owner, about 2 to 2.5 years old.
One is noticeably bigger than the other two, but not even twice their size as of yet.
They seem to get along well so far, and I do watch them a lot, and for the most part they simply sit near each other. I've seen no head bobbing, no ramming, nothing of the sort yet.
Due to their young age, I'm not yet able to determine genders. She said that she requested females when she bought them, but would it have even been possible for a breeder to accurately tell gender of their hatchlings?

If I do need to separate them, is there an age where they typically would start to become aggressive or bully? I was hoping to keep the 3 of them for now, at least until I can determine gender.

Basically, my questions are:

1. Do adult sulcatas live amicably together?
2. If they do not, about how old does aggression tend to kick in? I would think it would be associated with reaching breeding age?
3. Do I need to make plans now to expect to rehome one or two of them, so that I can keep one at its happiest?
 

zovick

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I've found plentiful info about how antisocial Russians are, and how social red foots can be, but I haven't yet found much out about sulcatas and their social habits.
I've seen some videos from reptile keepers who seem to house multiple sulcatas together, but I don't know how common this is?
Do they tend to become aggressive with age?
Are males more aggressive than females?
Does every sulcata need to be housed all on its own?

I recently obtained, for free, 3 sulcatas who are, according to former owner, about 2 to 2.5 years old.
One is noticeably bigger than the other two, but not even twice their size as of yet.
They seem to get along well so far, and I do watch them a lot, and for the most part they simply sit near each other. I've seen no head bobbing, no ramming, nothing of the sort yet.
Due to their young age, I'm not yet able to determine genders. She said that she requested females when she bought them, but would it have even been possible for a breeder to accurately tell gender of their hatchlings?

If I do need to separate them, is there an age where they typically would start to become aggressive or bully? I was hoping to keep the 3 of them for now, at least until I can determine gender.

Basically, my questions are:

1. Do adult sulcatas live amicably together?
2. If they do not, about how old does aggression tend to kick in? I would think it would be associated with reaching breeding age?
3. Do I need to make plans now to expect to rehome one or two of them, so that I can keep one at its happiest?
When the males start getting a foot long or so, they can become quite nasty. They will purposely try to smash your leg or your arm between their sharp front marginal scutes and a wall or other solid surface and then move rapidly from side to side, cutting your skin with the marginal scutes. They do this when you aren't looking or expecting it, and they very often draw blood. You will quickly learn not to turn your back on a male sulcata or take your eyes off of it when cleaning out its enclosure if indoors (and to wear boots when going into the pens with them to protect your legs).

Females don't seem as territorial or aggressive in my experience.

If I were you, as soon as I could tell the sexes of those buggers, I would place any males with other people. Be aware that the males can reach well over 200 lbs and at that size are relatively hard to contain as well as being quite destructive to yards and other enclosures.

Both sexes are very good at flipping dirt and other substrates up to 20 feet with their front legs when they want to dig a pallet or a burrow. My four adults used to make a real mess of the basement where I kept them in CT. They tossed their substrate out almost daily and got it all over the place.
 
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nootnootbu

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When the males start getting a foot long or so, they can become quite nasty. They will purposely try to smash your leg or your arm between their sharp front marginal scutes and a wall or other solid surface. They do this when you aren't looking or expecting it, and they often draw blood. You will quickly learn not to turn your back on a male sulcata or take your eyes off of it when cleaning out its enclosure if indoors.

Females don't seem as territorial or aggressive in my experience.

If I were you, as soon as I could tell the sexes of those buggers, I would place any males with other people. Be aware that the males can reach well over 200 lbs and, at that size, are relatively hard to contain as well as being quite destructive to yards and other enclosures.

Is there a way to determine genders fairly early on?
Everything I have read says you can't really tell until about 5?
Right now, the biggest one is about 7 and a half inches, the other two are about 6 and a half, so we have some time. Nobody is a grumpy butt yet.

Oh, and a note on size, I'm aware, and planning to move to a new home within the next 1-3 years, now that I have these guys, a priority will be a nice huge yard so I can build a suitable enclosure with submerged concrete walls.
 

Maro2Bear

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How large of an enclosure do you have currently? Are you keeping them inside or outside and grazing? How about night time “night boxes” and hides. The larger the area the better.

Upload some pix of your torts & enclosures. Keeping three all together in one enclosure is a recipe for bullying.

Good luck.
 

Yossarian

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Overt aggression is only part of the problem. Competition stress leads to bullying behaviour that is often much more subtle than aggression. The effects of this stress can lead torts to stop growing normally and become ill. Often one tort will grow much more slowly than the other(s).

And of course, juveniles can injure each other quite badly. Despite what you see on youtube, Sulcata should almost never be kept together. They may live together, seemingly fine for years and then one day you may find one of them has killed the other.
 

zovick

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Is there a way to determine genders fairly early on?
Everything I have read says you can't really tell until about 5?
Right now, the biggest one is about 7 and a half inches, the other two are about 6 and a half, so we have some time. Nobody is a grumpy butt yet.

Oh, and a note on size, I'm aware, and planning to move to a new home within the next 1-3 years, now that I have these guys, a priority will be a nice huge yard so I can build a suitable enclosure with submerged concrete walls.
If you want to know their sexes for sure and right now, you can take them to a good vet to be endoscoped for gender determination. It isn't the least costly procedure, but once it's done, you will not have to wonder about their sexes.

I have had about 350 or so baby tortoises endoscoped over the years and the vet I used never got the sex wrong on any of the ones which I had done (and was able to follow as they grew to maturity).

Did you say you lived in GA? If so, I can tell you where to take them. The head exotics vet at the UGA vet school is THE MAN who literally WROTE THE BOOK on endoscopic gender determination in tortoises and turtles. I'll post more info on how to get an appointment if you wish.
 

Markw84

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I've found plentiful info about how antisocial Russians are, and how social red foots can be, but I haven't yet found much out about sulcatas and their social habits.
I've seen some videos from reptile keepers who seem to house multiple sulcatas together, but I don't know how common this is?
Do they tend to become aggressive with age?
Are males more aggressive than females?
Does every sulcata need to be housed all on its own?

I recently obtained, for free, 3 sulcatas who are, according to former owner, about 2 to 2.5 years old.
One is noticeably bigger than the other two, but not even twice their size as of yet.
They seem to get along well so far, and I do watch them a lot, and for the most part they simply sit near each other. I've seen no head bobbing, no ramming, nothing of the sort yet.
Due to their young age, I'm not yet able to determine genders. She said that she requested females when she bought them, but would it have even been possible for a breeder to accurately tell gender of their hatchlings?

If I do need to separate them, is there an age where they typically would start to become aggressive or bully? I was hoping to keep the 3 of them for now, at least until I can determine gender.

Basically, my questions are:

1. Do adult sulcatas live amicably together?
2. If they do not, about how old does aggression tend to kick in? I would think it would be associated with reaching breeding age?
3. Do I need to make plans now to expect to rehome one or two of them, so that I can keep one at its happiest?

Sulcatas are one of the more aggressive of tortoises. Males are definitely more aggressive than females. Females do become a bit aggressive when they are ready to lay eggs at times, but this is temporary.

You normally can determine sex by 14"-16" in straight carapace length, or about 14lbs - 17lbs. Sometimes earlier when a male may "flash" you especially when in a warm bath.

How well they get along is often a case of how much room they have. With ample room (1/4 acre or so) a group including a few males can get along. They develop a heirarchy and the dominant usually will establish himself with a bit of ramming and trying to overturn a rival for a week or so. With ample room it will subside after than and the subordinates will simply give way to the dominant. At that point they can live together with no additional fighting. In a small enclosure it will not ever end! If you try to house more than one male in a smaller enclosure (less than 1/4 acre) the fighting can be nasty and incessant. The same will be true of breeding attempts with the male with your females. In smaller enclosures a male can cause damage to a female through incessant breeding attempts.

When young (less than 10 lbs - 5000g) a group of 3 or more sulcatas will normally do fine together. It as they grow (which doesn't take long) you need to watch and deal with the group dynamics and fighting. A pair will never work housed together.
 
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nootnootbu

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Slulcatas are one of the more aggressive of tortoises. Males are definitely more aggressive than females. Females do become a bit aggressive when they are ready to lay eggs at times, but this is temporary.

You normally can determine sex by 14"-16" in straight carapace length, or about 14lbs - 17lbs. Sometimes earlier when a male may "flash" you especially when in a warm bath.

How well they get along is often a case of how much room they have. With ample room (1/4 acre or so) a group including a few males can get along. They develop a heirarchy and the dominant usually will establish himself with a bit of ramming and trying to overturn a rival for a week or so. With ample room it will subside after than and the subordinates will simply give way to the dominant. At that point they can live together with no additional fighting. In a small enclosure it will not ever end! If you try to house more than one male in a smaller enclosure (less than 1/4 acre) the fighting can be nasty and incessant. The same will be true of breeding attempts with the male with your females. In smaller enclosures a male can cause damage to a female through incessant breeding attempts.

When young (less than 10 lbs - 5000g) a group of 3 or more sulcatas will normally do fine together. It as they grow (which doesn't take long) you need to watch and deal with the group dynamics and fighting. A pair will never work housed together.
Thank you for this wonderful and detailed response. I'm planning to try and have them plenty of space when I move, so hopefully that's not too far in the future.

If problems arise, I will separate and rehome if necessary.
 

Tom

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I've found plentiful info about how antisocial Russians are, and how social red foots can be, but I haven't yet found much out about sulcatas and their social habits.
I've seen some videos from reptile keepers who seem to house multiple sulcatas together, but I don't know how common this is?
Do they tend to become aggressive with age?
Are males more aggressive than females?
Does every sulcata need to be housed all on its own?

I recently obtained, for free, 3 sulcatas who are, according to former owner, about 2 to 2.5 years old.
One is noticeably bigger than the other two, but not even twice their size as of yet.
They seem to get along well so far, and I do watch them a lot, and for the most part they simply sit near each other. I've seen no head bobbing, no ramming, nothing of the sort yet.
Due to their young age, I'm not yet able to determine genders. She said that she requested females when she bought them, but would it have even been possible for a breeder to accurately tell gender of their hatchlings?

If I do need to separate them, is there an age where they typically would start to become aggressive or bully? I was hoping to keep the 3 of them for now, at least until I can determine gender.

Basically, my questions are:

1. Do adult sulcatas live amicably together?
2. If they do not, about how old does aggression tend to kick in? I would think it would be associated with reaching breeding age?
3. Do I need to make plans now to expect to rehome one or two of them, so that I can keep one at its happiest?
I've enjoyed the responses on this thread. We all have our own way of wording things.

Generally speaking, groups of juvenile sulcatas (under 14 inches) will get along fine. Even if the sizes are a little different. At around 14 inches, its best to separate out males, and let females grow up in peace. Pairs never work, not at any age.

I've never seen a sulcata show aggression toward a human. Adult male sulcatas will usually try to kill each other. The only time I've seen exception to this is when large groups of say 20 or more animals are hours in giant pens and usually fed and housed less than optimally with cold night temps. I've only ever seen one single female show any aggression. Usually females get along fine.

Understand that most of the care info you find for this species is old, out-dated and wrong. The same wrong info has been repeated and followed for decades. Here is the right info: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/the-best-way-to-raise-a-sulcata-leopard-or-star-tortoise.181497/
 
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nootnootbu

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If you want to know their sexes for sure and right now, you can take them to a good vet to be endoscoped for gender determination. It isn't the least costly procedure, but once it's done, you will not have to wonder about their sexes.

I have had about 350 or so baby tortoises endoscoped over the years and the vet I used never got the sex wrong on any of the ones which I had done (and was able to follow as they grew to maturity).

Did you say you lived in GA? If so, I can tell you where to take them. The head exotics vet at the UGA vet school is THE MAN who literally WROTE THE BOOK on endoscopic gender determination in tortoises and turtles. I'll post more info on how to get an appointment if you wish.

I'm not sure how convenient that would be price-wise or even travel-wise for me. But if you can give me the info, I will look into it.
 

nootnootbu

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Overt aggression is only part of the problem. Competition stress leads to bullying behaviour that is often much more subtle than aggression. The effects of this stress can lead torts to stop growing normally and become ill. Often one tort will grow much more slowly than the other(s).

And of course, juveniles can injure each other quite badly. Despite what you see on youtube, Sulcata should almost never be kept together. They may live together, seemingly fine for years and then one day you may find one of them has killed the other.

Is this true of females as well, or only males?
 

nootnootbu

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How large of an enclosure do you have currently? Are you keeping them inside or outside and grazing? How about night time “night boxes” and hides. The larger the area the better.

Upload some pix of your torts & enclosures. Keeping three all together in one enclosure is a recipe for bullying.

Good luck.

I'm going to work to make the yard safe for them so they can spend a lot of daytime hours outdoors when the weather is good. Their indoor enclosure is only 8ft by 4ft, but that's just what they came with. I was planning to only keep them in that at night and during bad weather.

They all seem to go to bed at night and I never find them out wandering around after about 10pm.
 

Tom

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I'm going to work to make the yard safe for them so they can spend a lot of daytime hours outdoors when the weather is good. Their indoor enclosure is only 8ft by 4ft, but that's just what they came with. I was planning to only keep them in that at night and during bad weather.

They all seem to go to bed at night and I never find them out wandering around after about 10pm.
Where are you in the US? We don't need your address. Just the general area so we can better understand the climate. Different advice for Miami vs. Montana.
 

nootnootbu

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North Georgia, so we have good weather for them MOST of the year, like, it's already consistently 70s during the day in March, and we often have nice warm days even in what's considered the winter months. I think our humidity is a tiny bit high for them though, especially during our rainiest times.
 

nootnootbu

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I've enjoyed the responses on this thread. We all have our own way of wording things.

Generally speaking, groups of juvenile sulcatas (under 14 inches) will get along fine. Even if the sizes are a little different. At around 14 inches, its best to separate out males, and let females grow up in peace. Pairs never work, not at any age.

I've never seen a sulcata show aggression toward a human. Adult male sulcatas will usually try to kill each other. The only time I've seen exception to this is when large groups of say 20 or more animals are hours in giant pens and usually fed and housed less than optimally with cold night temps. I've only ever seen one single female show any aggression. Usually females get along fine.

Understand that most of the care info you find for this species is old, out-dated and wrong. The same wrong info has been repeated and followed for decades. Here is the right info: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/the-best-way-to-raise-a-sulcata-leopard-or-star-tortoise.181497/

Thank you, I will give this a read. :)
 

KarenSoCal

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North Georgia, so we have good weather for them MOST of the year, like, it's already consistently 70s during the day in March, and we often have nice warm days even in what's considered the winter months. I think our humidity is a tiny bit high for them though, especially during our rainiest times.

Actually, that high humidity is good for them. You won't need to put bins of water in their heated night boxes. :)

"Sulcatas live in the desert so they should be kept dry"...that is the single most repeated, oldest, outdated, and WRONG info out there about them. It's this bit of misinformation that Tom, and this forum, are working so hard to correct.

If this corrected humidity/hydration issue would only be accepted and made routine by everyone involved, I'm going to guess that hundreds of baby sullies would live and thrive each year, instead of dying miserable deaths.
 

zovick

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I'm not sure how convenient that would be price-wise or even travel-wise for me. But if you can give me the info, I will look into it.
Here is the information regarding endoscopic gender determination at the UGA Veterinary Teaching Hospital. You want to get an appointment with Dr. Steve Divers to do this procedure. Normally, the tortoises will be dropped off at the clinic on a Monday or a Wednesday and then weighed by the staff that day to determine the proper dosages of medications needed to treat them when the endoscopies are done the following day. The tortoises are then closely monitored on the afternoon and evening after the procedure and can be picked up in the late morning or afternoon of the third day (Wednesday or Friday). When the tortoises are picked up, you will be given a DVD with the photos which were taken of your tortoises' gonads during the endoscopy procedure for your permanent records.

If you want this done, email Dr. Divers' head technician Ashley at [email protected] for an appointment. Note that these appointments are only available when Dr. Divers is on the clinical rotation which occurs once every few weeks, so you may need to wait a while to get one. Also note that young tortoises must weigh over 110 grams or he will not do them. I think yours are well over this weight, but am mentioning it for other readers who may wish to know.

As I said earlier, in all cases where I have been able to follow those animals he has done for me to adulthood, not one has ever turned out to be a different sex than what he determined by the endoscopy. This includes some very young ones that he did prior to setting a minimum weight for doing the procedure. In other words, he is very good and very accurate.
 

Tom

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North Georgia, so we have good weather for them MOST of the year, like, it's already consistently 70s during the day in March, and we often have nice warm days even in what's considered the winter months. I think our humidity is a tiny bit high for them though, especially during our rainiest times.
I'm working down in Senoia right now. Its cold, rainy and miserable at the moment here. We did have some nice days last week though...

I just built an outdoor box for some friends here. They have two adult sulcatas, so I made a box with a divider in it, very similar to this one:
 

nootnootbu

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Actually, that high humidity is good for them. You won't need to put bins of water in their heated night boxes. :)

"Sulcatas live in the desert so they should be kept dry"...that is the single most repeated, oldest, outdated, and WRONG info out there about them. It's this bit of misinformation that Tom, and this forum, are working so hard to correct.

If this corrected humidity/hydration issue would only be accepted and made routine by everyone involved, I'm going to guess that hundreds of baby sullies would live and thrive each year, instead of dying miserable deaths.

I'm soaking every other day right now since I just got them, and I think former owner never did soaks and I know she kept no water in the enclosures.
 
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